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The Inner Planets: Geology

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Presentation on theme: "The Inner Planets: Geology"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Inner Planets: Geology
Inner planets vs outer planets Making surfaces Sources of heat Interiors, layering and why Surface Area to Volume ratio and how it controls cooling rate Plate tectonics vs thickness of crust

2 All planets and the sun, sizes


4 Temp vs distance in solar system

5 Therefore, inside the Frost Line…
It’s too hot close to the sun. No ices. So only the rocky material (~3% of the solar nebula) could collect. Not hydrogen and helium since their thermal velocities are high and escape velocities from these small planets are low Most plentiful component is iron (why? Because massive stars blow up when they develop iron cores, scattering it all over the place!)

6 Making an Inner Planet After the heavier elements and minerals condensed into solid bits of dust and rock, they all orbited the Sun at about the same speed. Collisions between objects moving at the ~same speed are less destructive than those of objects moving at different speeds. Thus, when “dust bunnies” orbiting the Sun move close to one another, they can stick together more often than they destroy each other. Electrostatic force can provide the “glue”, as we saw before These pieces gradually grow larger in a process called accretion. Once they are large enough, gravity forces them into spherical shapes.

7 Bringin’ Heat Initially the inner planets are small and so self-gravity is weak and accretion is fairly gentle Late stages, self gravity is substantial and the accretion velocities are bigger. The kinetic energy of impacts ½mv2 = (3/2)kT. Impact velocity is a few km/sec due to differential orbital speed, plus the velocity due to the gravity of the planet: about 10 km/sec. ~15 km/sec is 15 times faster and 200 times more energy per pound than a high powered rifle bullet! Easily gives enough temperature to melt rock! Second source of heating: Radioactive decay of heavy elements supplies long term heating, mainly deep inside where it’s hard to conduct or convect away.

8 Molten Inner Planets If the planet is molten, the heavier chemical elements will sink towards the core, and the ligher elements will rise to the surface. Layering – is proof of the molten history of the Earth, and other inner planets. Surface elements are dominated by light rocky elements: silicon, aluminum, oxygen, magnesium, carbon…

9 Early inner planet; a ball of lava

10 How Rapidly Does a Planet Cool?
Planets cool from their surface, and surface area goes as diameter squared But their heat content is proportional to their mass, which is proportional to their volume (assuming roughly similar chemical composition between inner planets), and volume goes as diameter cubed! Therefore: Bigger things cool SLOWER! All planets have been cooling for the same period of time – 4.6 billion years. Therefore… Big planets will have thinner crusts!

11 Inner planet interiors; summary

12 Mercury Smallest planet, only 3,000 mi across. About 40% of Earth’s diameter 600F on daylight side, too hot to retain any atmospheric molecules at all. Probably doesn’t help that the sun is so close and solar storms can rack the planet and carry off any atmosphere too. Cratering shows it hasn’t had atmosphere for most of the solar system’s history Also the densest planet – BIG iron core.

13 Why is Mercury so Dense? Early theory – initial sun was so luminous it vaporized much of Mercury’s lighter elements in the crust Messenger Mission says no – large sulfur deposits – several percent of Mercury’s crust by mass!, and large potassium-to-thorium ratio shows volatiles are much more common still today than this theory allows Probably, Mercury condensed from iron-rich materials which may have predominated in the innermost solar nebula.

14 Mercury mariner

15 Mercury messenger

16 bronte

17 Evaporating volatiles look to have opened these cracks, like a drying mud puddle!

18 hollows

19 Is/Was Mercury Geologically Active?
Check out this picture, and then you tell me…

20 Mercury fault

21 A fault line (A Lobate Scarp, Actually)
But notice how the fault is older than nearly every other crater it crosses. Apparently, and perhaps not surprisingly, Mercury appears to have geologically “died” as a planetary youngster Fits nicely with the rapidly thickening crust predicted by basic physics: cooling rate vs heat capacity Other evidence of geologic activity: large volcanic plains (thanks to Messenger, we know they’re volcanic because they are sloped, unlike non-volcanic plains which are level) Mercury has shrunk by about 1 mile after forming a crust, creating the many scarps. Lots of volatiles evaporated off the planet



24 Venus Almost as large as the Earth. Hot!
So you’d expect a thin crust and likely recent geologic activity.

25 venusOrangeClouds

26 Venus-all

27 Venus lava flows

28 Venus-surface1

29 Venus-surface2

30 Venus-surface4

31 So we see on Venus… Volcanoes, thousands of them!
Cracks in a thin crust A few BIG impact craters, but not much in the way of small ones. It may be that the surface rock is not very hard, but more like a very stiff plastic which can flow over time. Obliterating small craters? Wind erosion?

32 Venera-left

33 Venera-right

34 Venus Geology Summary Thick clouds prevent measuring by reflection the chemical composition of the crustal surface Venus appears to be still volcanically active, but no evidence of plate tectonics Both fit nicely with the thin crust expected, and the absurdly hot 900 F temperatures We’ll see this is due to the Greenhouse Effect and Venus’ pure CO2 atmosphere, later when we discuss planetary atmsopheres

35 Earth – largest inner planet
Crust divided into tectonic plates which move due to friction against the moving molten mantle underneath. Continental drift animation

36 The Major Plates of Earth

37 Mid Atlantic Ridge – A Plate Boundary Spreading Zone

38 Earth’s Ocean Basins and Continents: Subduction and Spreading

39 Folded mountains – earth and Venus

40 Aurora, iceland volcano

41 Mt. Aetna in italy

42 But Why? We don’t see tectonic plates on the other inner planets. Why Earth? 1. The Earth is the most massive inner planet and so would be expected to have the thinnest crust, most easily broken. 2. The Earth has a rapid rotation… The reason may be related to the origin of the moon….

43 Our Moon is Weird No other inner planet has a sizable moon
If our moon formed as part of a spinning proto-Earth, you’d expect it would orbit in the same plane as our equator. Instead it orbits close to the ecliptic plane It’s got only a tiny iron core Its chemical composition is the same as the earth’s outer mantle and crust And… the Earth spins much faster than Venus or Mercury, and faster than Mars too.

44 Putting These Clues Together Strongly Suggests…
The moon was created as a by-product of a collision between the early Earth and another planet. How big a planet? We have run detailed numerical simulations, throwing all the relevant physics into numerical computer codes of different kinds (smoothed-particle hydrodynamics, adaptive mesh, finite-element…) numerically integrating it forward Here’s an animation of such a simulation

45 Formation of Our Moon Looks like a ~Mars-sized planet hit the Earth with a glancing blow Spraying molten and vaporized material mostly made of the outer parts of both planets, outward and into a ring The heavy stuff of both planets settled by gravity to the bottom, giving the Earth a significant iron / nickel core The light stuff became the ring, 90% of which slowly spiraled back in by collisional friction and settled back onto our surface becoming our crust But roughly 10% of the ring was able to self-gravitate into the Moon before it fell back to Earth The moon is only a little more than 1% of the mass of the Earth.

46 After it formed… We would then have a very rapidly rotating Earth, much faster rotating than it currently is And a very close moon So we would get very strong tides – MANY times stronger than today’s tides And tidal friction would rapidly transfer angular momentum from the spinning Earth to the orbiting moon, causing it to spiral outward Till today, when it is now 60 Earth radii away, and tidal stress is weak, but still slowly pushing the moon further away, and having slowed the earth to a 24 hour “day”.

47 moon

48 moonPlieades

49 Moon’s surface; maria vs highlands

50 Age of the Moon Oldest meteorites are 4.57 billion years
Oldest lunar rocks are 4.4 to 4.5 billion years ago, from lunar highlands. In ’09, a zircon from an Apollo 17 rock dated to 4.42 billion years old. The crust of the moon should have formed within 90 million years of the impact creating the moon, putting the origin impact at ~4.52 billion years ago, agreeing well with the oldest meteorites. Oldest rocks on Earth are 4.0 billion years, from northern Canada, but zircon crystals imbedded in some rocks date to at least 4.3 billion years old

51 Mare humorum,

52 Clavius 160mi across

53 Apollo 15 on moon1

54 Summary on the Moon Inner planets don’t HAVE moons – because they likely were not massive enough nor spinning rapidly enough to have a massive flattened disk which could condense into moons, like the bigger outer planets did Now - We DO have a Moon! But it took a random (rare?) collision with a BIG (former) planet to make it, and it took a glancing blow to produce the massive ring required to make a moon which is still only 1% of our own mass, to spin us up. The existence of the moon may be key to why life is possible on our planet, but more on that later in the course.

55 marsHS

56 Mars – Half the Diameter of Earth
Mars is small, cooled quicker than Earth, with much less radioactive decay heat contribution. Crust thickened up and yet… Huge volcanoes, with possible recent activity No moving tectonic plate evidence Ancient volcanoes but they do not appear to be active in the recent past

57 Key Points on Earth Geology
Plate Tectonics requires (1) thin crust (therefore large planet), and (2) Rapid rotation. Earth is the only planet that qualifies! Plate tectonics dominates mountain building, weathering, re-surfacing of Earth. Water brought to Earth by comets, meteorites early on. Dominates the surface Earth unique in having a large moon. Moon stabilizes the Earth’s rotation axis.

58 Olympus Mons vs Arizona

59 Olympic mons caldera


61 Mantle convection

62 Hawaiian Islands String due to Plate Motion.

63 Impact Craters are Big – From large asteroids?

64 Mars globe, w/ v. marinaris

65 Mars valle marinaris

66 Mars continents

67 Topography colorcoded

68 Newton crater



71 Mars solis plenum

72 Martian sand dunes

73 Mars gullies


75 Dry river1

76 Martian surface; pathfinder

77 Spirit track

78 Mars mud cracks

79 Martian rock; blueberries, razorback

80 These “blueberries” are hematite – an iron-rich mineral which only forms in water.

81 Sedimentary layers exposed on Crater wall

82 Mars BurnsCliffs

83 Mars drilling rock

84 Mars frozen ice floes

85 Martian South Polar Cap, of CO2

86 Mars heart-shaped crater

87 happyface

88 Mars has two tiny moons Phobos, and Diemos
Probably captured asteroids, orbits do not indicate they formed as part of Mars. Mars also spins in 24 hours, convection in the mantle? May have been geologically active early on, but crust is now likely to be too thick to allow plate motion. And… Mars has no magnetic field, indicating that there is little movement of a molten interior.

89 phobos

90 Phobos mars orbiter

91 Diemos

92 Mars - Geologic Activity Possibilities?
Mars spins in 24.5 hours, so… if convection in the mantle, could friction the crust Well, may have been geologically active early on, but small diameter means crust cooled fast, likely to be too thick to allow plate motion now. And… Mars has no magnetic field, indicating that there is, in fact, little movement of any molten interior today The atmosphere argues the quiet interior has been true for some time… we’ll talk more about this soon!

93 As a Last Point… Note What Causes a Magnetic Field for a Planet
Caused by moving charges, which create an electric current. Circulating electric current creates a magnetic field. A planet needs two conditions to have a decent magnetic field --1. Beneath the surface, an electrically conducting interior material (metals are great for this, Iron especially) --2. Significant rotation, to generate motion of the conducting material

94 Magnetic Fields Important for Evolution of Atmospheres – Our Next Topic…

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